SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A year ago, Adley Rutschman was a student at Oregon State, and now he’s in his first major league camp.
Nothing overwhelming about that, he says.
Rutschman was the top pick in last June’s draft and signed with the Baltimore Orioles for an $8.1 million bonus. He’s played just 37 minor league games, and yet the 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher is fitting in fine at spring training among 67 other players who all have more experience.
Rutschman is in camp to learn from major league players and coaches — and to show a dwindling fan base there may be some hope for a team that’s averaged over 110 losses the last two seasons.
Rutschman has been catching bullpens from veteran pitchers, and even though he’s the most publicized young catcher in recent years, he’s defer to them and their preferences.
“I ask each one of them what they want from me,” Rutschman said. “I get to try to accommodate them as best as I can. By being able to catch more experienced guys, I feel like it’s a great learning experience for me, too.”
Last season, Rutschman hit .254 with four home runs and 26 RBIs for three teams, ending the year with 12 games at Low-A Delmarva.
To begin 2020, Rutschman could return to Delmarva or advance to High-A Frederick. If he does well, Rutschman could move up to Double-A Bowie.
While Orioles fans are excited about Rutschman, at December’s winter meetings, general manager Mike Elias downplayed the possibility of him playing in Baltimore this season, saying he wasn’t going to advance four levels in a year.
Manager Brandon Hyde has liked what he’s seen from Rutschman in the early days of spring training.
“He’s fun to watch hit,” Hyde said. “I just like the way he swings the bat from both sides of the plate. He’s got huge power. … He’s got a chance to hit for average and power. Real simple swing, very strong. Ball flies off his bat.”
Hyde enjoys watching him work with veteran pitchers.
“He’s come here, and he’s not been afraid,” Hyde said. “He’s been vocal. He’s created good relationships with guys. The players really like him. They like throwing to him. He’s communicating really well for a guy that’s in his first big league camp.”
Rutschman will play in a handful of spring training games, and then early next month go to Baltimore’s minor league camp to begin preparations for this season. While he’s been happy in camp, there’s much to learn.
“As a player, I feel like you’re never going to be satisfied where you’re at,” Rutschman said. “Hitting is one of the toughest things to do. You’re never going to reach an arrival point per se, so I think there’s always things to improve upon. If you ask Mike Trout, I’m sure he’d say he’s still working on stuff.”
Instead of waking up for early college classes, Rutschman is at the Orioles’ complex for on-field work that begins some days at 7 a.m.
“This is awesome,” Rutschman said. “We’re still in the first couple of weeks. Shoot, if it’s a grind right now, man, I’d feel bad for you. It’s going well so far and I’m excited to come to the field every day.”
NOTE: 1B Chris Davis missed two days due to illness and is expected to play on Sunday, Hyde said.
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